Barone Predicts Romney Landslide: Romney 315-Obama 223

Saturday, November 3, AD 2012

Lat week, in a post that may be read here, I noted that Michael Barone, the most astute political analyst of the American political scene, predicted that Romney would win.  Yesterday in the Washington Examiner he gave his electoral vote prediction:

Which candidate will get the electoral votes of the target states? I’ll go out on a limb and predict them, in ascending order of 2008 Obama percentages — fully aware that I’m likely to get some wrong.

Indiana (11 electoral votes). Uncontested. Romney.

North Carolina (15 electoral votes). Obama has abandoned this target. Romney.

Florida (29). The biggest target state has trended Romney since the Denver debate. I don’t see any segment of the electorate favoring Obama more than in 2008, and I see some (South Florida Jews) favoring him less. Romney.

Ohio (18). The anti-Romney auto bailout ads have Obama running well enough among blue-collar voters for him to lead most polls. But many polls anticipate a more Democratic electorate than in 2008. Early voting tells another story, and so does the registration decline in Cleveland’s Cuyahoga County. In 2004, intensity among rural, small -town and evangelical voters, undetected by political reporters who don’t mix in such circles, produced a narrow Bush victory. I see that happening again. Romney.

Virginia (13). Post-debate polling mildly favors Romney, and early voting is way down in heavily Democratic Arlington, Alexandria, Richmond and Norfolk. Northern Virginia Asians may trend Romney. Romney.

Colorado (9). Unlike 2008, registered Republicans outnumber registered Democrats, and more Republicans than Democrats have voted early. The Republican trend in 2010 was squandered by weak candidates for governor and senator. Not this time. Romney.

Iowa (6). The unexpected Romney endorsements by the Des Moines Register and three other newspapers gave voice to buyer’s remorse in a state Obama carried by 10 points. Democrats’ traditional margin in early voting has declined. Romney.

Minnesota (10). A surprise last-minute media buy for the Romney campaign. But probably a bridge too far. Obama.

New Hampshire (4). Polls are very tight here. I think superior Republican intensity will prevail. Romney.

Pennsylvania (20). Everyone would have picked Obama two weeks ago. I think higher turnout in pro-coal Western Pennsylvania and higher Republican percentages in the Philadelphia suburbs could produce a surprise. The Romney team evidently thinks so too. Their investment in TV time is too expensive to be a mere feint, and, as this is written, Romney is planning a Sunday event in Bucks County outside Philly. Wobbling on my limb, Romney.

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16 Responses to Barone Predicts Romney Landslide: Romney 315-Obama 223

  • I don’t mean to put a damper on this, but Barone also predicted Sharon Anfle would defeat Harry Reid in 2010.

  • “Landslide” is not an appropriate term for the electoral college. It usually magnifies two-party popular vote margins although in 2004 it did not. I don’t think Barone is predicting a 10 point popular vote margin. I would take a narrow Romney margin (less than 2%) in the popular vote but it would bode ill for the country (see the UK).

  • “but Barone also predicted Sharon Anfle would defeat Harry Reid in 2010.”

    Along with virtually every pollster who looked at that race. I have always wondered if Reid won or stole that race.
    http://redstaterocketeer.blogspot.com/2010/10/nevada-voting-machines-automatically.html

    In 2008 Barone called it for Obama.

  • There’s no doubt in my mind that Reid stole Nevada. I’m just afraid that Obama and company will use that template nationally.

  • “I’m just afraid that Obama and company will use that template nationally.”

    That would be a very, very poor choice on their part.

    Additionally, considering how many states are controlled by Republicans I doubt if it would be possible.

  • Let us hope and pray that Mr. Barone is on the money.

  • D McC says “I have always wondered if Reid won or stole that race.”

    My impression is that it was won on turnout. Harry made sure his union and Hispanic voters turned out while the Republican Party made no great effort for a candidate they disliked.

  • “I have always wondered if Reid won or stole that race.”

    Harry Reid steal an election? Nooo! You don’t think Harry would do such a thing now would you? In any event, I hope Barron is right.

  • Barone was just on Huckabee on Fox taking a look at each of the swing states. I would love to have a tenth of the knowledge of that man when it comes to voting patterns in each state.

  • “intensity among rural, small-town and evangelical voters, undetected by political reporters who don’t mix in such circles”

    That was, I presume, a big part of the reason for Reagan’s surprise (at least to the media) landslide win in 1980. If I remember correctly (I was 16 at the time and not yet old enough to vote), all the talking heads and various polls had Carter and Reagan running neck and neck right up to the end, and it was only in the final week or so that internal (not publicized at the time) polling indicated that Reagan had jumped ahead. Is history repeating itself here?

  • Its been interesting comparing the enthusiasm and size of the Romney rallies with those of Obama. Romney has been drawing huge, boisterous crowds. Obama has been drawing small crowds for a President, many of them bussed in Union members. Yeah, I think the Mainstream Media is completely in the dark regarding the nature of this election.

  • Thank you, Donald, this bucks me up. I am one nervous Nellie – my stomach is in knots. I admit, I am finding the polls baffling. All the trends look to be working in R/R’s favor – a huge lead among white men, a narrowing of the gap among women, Romney leading among independents – and yet polls show the race tied or Obama with a slight lead. On an anecdotal level, I’ve worked the phones for RR and one gentleman told me the other day that he would crawl over ground glass and then swim across a pool filled with rubbing alcohol to vote for Romney. I’ve heard similiar sentiments from other Republicans and there are a surprising number of RR signs in liberal neighborhoods here. I saw the same thing during the Walker recall effort, and I don’t remember seeing ANY McCain signs in the same neighborhoods in ’08.

    At the same time, I don’t want to kid myself by telling myself the polls mean nothing. I feel like I’m going crazy or living in some alternate universe when I look at the polls, which defy logic. But then I don’t understand how anybody could vote for 4 more years of Obama.

  • An observation from downstate Illinois, which is about 53-47 in favor of Romney (but unfortunately, can’t overcome the 80-20 Obama advantage in Cook County):

    The greatest concentration of Obama/Biden signs that I have seen has been in a wealthy enclave of Springfield known as Leland Grove. Older, stately established neighborhood favored by doctors, lawyers, lobbyists, etc. I counted about 8 Obama signs within an area roughly 5 blocks square, about a week ago. (There were about 4 or 5 Romney signs in the same general area.)

    However, the last time I passed through the predominantly African-American part of town (about 3 weeks ago) I did not see ANY Obama signs along the route — though by now that might have changed — but there were plenty of signs for other, local Democratic candidates. Nor have I seen any Obama signs in the middle/working class neighborhoods where they were all over the place 4 years ago.

  • Three other analysts are calling for Romney to win by a landside: Dick Morris, George F. Will, and Wayne Allyn Root.

    Thank God, Romney will be President in 2013.

  • Elaine Krewer: “That was, I presume, a big part of the reason for Reagan’s surprise (at least to the media) landslide win in 1980. If I remember correctly (I was 16 at the time and not yet old enough to vote), all the talking heads and various polls had Carter and Reagan running neck and neck right up to the end, and it was only in the final week or so that internal (not publicized at the time) polling indicated that Reagan had jumped ahead. Is history repeating itself here?”

    IIRC, that’s not the case; Reagan was leading for a couple of months, at least. What changed at the end was the margin.

  • Well, well, well. a Thomas C. Joyce from Buffalo, who I assume is the Thomas C. Joyce who teaches English Lit at Canisius, the Jesuit college located there, dropped by to unleash what I assume he thought was a clever stink bomb:

    “So, with all that enthusiasm for Govenor Romney, and even blacks turning against Obama, I guess the MSM and all their fancy “Polls” loo foolish.

    How did the election turn out? Did anyone get a chance to see Romney’s Victory Speech. He didn’t even write a concession speech, he was so confident.”

    Enjoy your pro-abort parties’ time at the top of the political wheel Professor. Such moments tend to be brief and are to be treasured. Put 2010 out of your mind as you gloat, forget about the problems facing the nation and the threat to religious freedom posed by the administration you support and simply enjoy yourself. In the meantime, we will go about our work helping to make certain that the victory you bask in now will be ephemeral.

Michael Barone Predicts Romney Win

Saturday, October 27, AD 2012

 

Absolutely no one has a better nuts and bolts knowledge, down to the precinct level, than Michael Barone.  He is not a partisan but a technical analyst.  I was somewhat surprised therefore when last night on Hannity he unhesistatingly predicted a Romney win.  Go here to Ed Driscoll to view the video.  This will have an impact on the political professionals viewing the race.

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Rove and His White Board Explain the Polls

Thursday, September 27, AD 2012

Karl Rove, a hero to much of the Right and a demon figure of the Left.  Frankly I have never been that impressed by Rove.  In 2000 he almost threw away a race that Bush was winning going away due to his inability to have Bush admit early in the campaign that he had once been arrested for drunk driving.  He should have told Bush, or more likely Mrs. Bush, that everything tends to come out in a presidential campaign.  Instead a Democrat political operative springs this the weekend before the election and converts an easy Bush win into a national ordeal.  In 2004 a fairly lackadaisical Bush campaign struggled to defeat John Kerry, a weak candidate who should have been little challenge.

Having said that, Rove in the video above does an excellent job  demonstrating why most presidential horserace polls, with their fixation on the 2008 electorate are, to be blunt, crap.

Michael Barone, who I have always regarded as the best political prognosticator, yesterday on the Hugh Hewitt show talked about problems with the current batch of polls:

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6 Responses to Rove and His White Board Explain the Polls

  • I’m not much of a Rove fan either. I was listeing to him on a talk radio show, I think it might have been Michael Medved. And he was going on about how Romney should come right out and say Obama is lying. However, he did say he can say, “That’s not true Mr. President and you know it isn’t true.” But isn’t that the same as saying he’s lying? I say the only way to call someone a lying bastard is to call him a lying bastard.

  • I was polled only once in my life and that was many years ago when Hillary Clinton was running for the NY Senate seat. I remember how they were phrasing every question in a way that no matter how you answered, it would come out positive for Hillary. After telling the guy who was asking me the questions, time and time again, that under no circumstance would I EVER vote for Clinton, he asked me why? I told him because of her position on abortion, especially partial birth abortion. He started to laugh at me in a very sneering, sarcastic way and I just hung up the phone on him. That is how they operate. Plus, I’ve never been polled again. I guess my name was just taken off the list.

    Here’s another interesting tidbit regarding the election: Cardinal Dolan, who gave the closing prayer at the convention, shares Ronald Reagan’s birthday, February 6th. When Timothy Dolan was born, Reagan was celebrating his 39th birthday. A coincidence?

  • Reagan celebrated his 39th birthday for many years.

    As for Rove, I don’t know anyone who considers him a hero. The more rightward you go, the more you find animosity toward him. I don’t know if that’s fair or not, but he tends to get lumped in with the more moderate compromise-oriented Republican talking heads.

  • ‘He started to laugh at me in a very sneering, sarcastic way”

    That is a prime example of a push-pull poll which is basically a call in support of a candidate disguised as a poll.

  • In 2000 he almost threw away a race that Bush was winning going away due to his inability to have Bush admit early in the campaign that he had once been arrested for drunk driving.
    –Donald R. McClarey

    The Bush DUI arrest story came out in the press during the early part of 2000 during the primaries. It was concerning to some people (mostly McCain supporters) but didn’t derail the Bush campaign for the GOP nomination. Follow up stories mentioned more about Bush’s past drinking and that it had imperiled his marriage before he gave up alcohol completely. The story then died.

    In the fall campaign season, the Establishment Media resurrected the DUI arrest story at the behest of Gore operatives and misleadingly played it up as if it were an entirely new and unheard of revelation. Bush partisans considered that episode to be an instance of the Establishment Media (NYT and alphabet networks, I’m looking at you) shamelessly taking sides with the left-liberal team on the political playing field. Of course, now the track record of the Establishment Media playing hard for its favorite candidate is well established (ask Hillary Clinton’s 2008 supporters) but in 2000 accusations that Big Media played dirty pool weren’t taken seriously by The Serious People – that was considered Rush Limbaugh crazy talk – so the media was able to blindside the Rove’s Bush campaign operation late in the fall campaign.

  • “Karen Hughes, Bush’s spokeswomen said the 54-year-old Texas governor, who has been open about his past drinking problems, had not publicly disclosed the arrest because not even his 18-year-old twin daughters were aware of it. He has said he gave up drinking the day after his 40th birthday.”

    http://articles.cnn.com/2000-11-02/politics/bush.dui_1_arrest-from-news-reports-george-w-bush-kennebunkport-police?_s=PM:ALLPOLITICS

Could This be a 1946 Election?

Wednesday, April 7, AD 2010

When it comes to Congressional Elections, the foremost expert in the country is Michael Barone who has been studying these elections district by district for 50 years.  His Almanac of American Politics, which you may browse on line here , is the reference work for political professionals and political junkies.   He sees signs that the Congressional elections this year might resemble the Republican sweep in 1946.

Recent polls tell me that the Democratic Party is in the worst shape I have seen during my 50 years of following politics closely. So I thought it would be interesting to look back at the biggest Republican victory of the last 80 years, the off-year election of 1946. Republicans in that election gained 13 seats in the Senate and emerged with a 51–45 majority there, the largest majority that they enjoyed between 1930 and 1980. And they gained 55 seats in the House, giving them a 246–188 majority in that body, the largest majority they have held since 1930. The popular vote for the House was 53% Republican and 44% Democratic, a bigger margin than Republicans have won ever since. And that’s even more impressive when you consider that in 1946 Republicans did not seriously contest most seats in the South. In the 11 states that had been part of the Confederacy, Democrats won 103 of 105 seats and Republicans won only 2 seats in east Tennessee. In the 37 non-Confederate states, in contrast, Republicans won 246 of 330 seats, compared to only 85 for Democrats.

There are some intriguing similarities between the political situation in 1946 and the political situation today.

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42 Responses to Could This be a 1946 Election?

  • What do you think the Republicans should do if they win back the majority?

  • Force Obama to veto popular legislation time and again. This is assuming that Obama does not do a Bill Clinton and trim his sales as Clinton did after 94. I doubt he will. I think Obama is far more ideologically driven than Clinton who, I think, was only committed to Bill Clinton. If Obama is willing to work with a Republican Congress on fiscally responsible legislation then they should work with him, while dodging the flying pigs.

  • My concern, though, would be: Do the Republicans actually have lots of popular legislation to pass (and force Obama to veto or agree to) or would a spare GOP majority get itself involved in one of the “national priorities” like Cap & Trade for new financial regulation to “protect main street from wall street.”

    Goodness knows, I want Pelosi’s majority out, but even if we got both houses my concern would be we’d have a majority without a plan. We haven’t exactly seen Contract With America level thinking lately.

  • I recently turned on C-SPAN to see speaking a fellow from the American Enterprise Institute. He told a tale of speaking to a Republican congressional candidate (whom he did not name) and asking him about what the pathway for Social Security should be. In his telling, the man ruled out a tax increase or raising the retirement age and said he wanted to go after “waste, fraud, and abuse”. The AEI fellow said here’s the problem with the political class: “they are not serious”.

    A generation ago, Jack Beatty (then literary editor of The New Republic defined a quality he called ‘unseriousness of mind’: 1.) the inability to recognize a logical contradition; 2.) the inability to relate acts and consequences; and 3.) the unwillingness to change course when events defy expectations.

    Paul Ryan has a plan. The anxiety is that the rest of them will default to ‘hey, let’s have a tax cut’. (A default setting which is Mr. Reagan’s most salient legacy, alas).

  • New blood like Paul Ryan is why I think the Republicans may realize that business as usual will not allow them to triumph in 2012.

  • Donald,

    What popular legislation do you you have in mind? From what I can tell, the extent of the Republican agenda right now is that some of them want to repeal ObamaCare while some do not.

    Republicans managed to win 55 House seats and a majority in 1946, but they didn’t do much with that majority, and two years later they lost 74 seats (and, of course, the Democratic President was re-elected).

  • but they didn’t do much with that majority

    Legislation generally requires Presidential assent.

    Wartime price controls and rationing were dismantled fairly rapidly in the United States, while remaining in effect in Britain until 1955. Likewise, initiatives on the part of factions within the Democratic Party to render the political economy more thoroughly corporotist and mercantilist than it had been were frustrated. The Taft-Hartley Act rendered industrial relations in this country significantly different than was the case in Britian or Austria.

  • Legislation generally requires Presidential assent.

    In that case the Republicans are in trouble, as we are going to have a Democratic president in 2011-12.

  • Obviously, I want the GOP to win, they are “my team” to the extent that anyone is in the political process. But there is a sense in which I wonder if it might be better for our long term political prospects if we remained in the minority but only by 10-20 seats in the House and 2-3 in the Senate and then could run against both the White House and the Congress in 2012. One hardly wants to see Obama’s 2012 argument being, “Don’t you want a two term Democrat to balance out that crazy new GOP congress” a la 1996.

    On the other hand, arguments that nothing succeeds like failure always seem a little odd. And in 2012 we may be hampered by a less than ideal presidential nominee. Hard to say.

  • I don’t think, really, that any specific argument about Congress or the Presidency is going to make the difference in 2012; the economy will decide the election. Winning back Congress in 2006 didn’t seem to hurt the Democrats any in 2008. Clinton won in 1996 not primarily because of any argument he made about controlling Republicans in Congress, but because people liked him and the economy was humming along (plus Dole was a terrible candidate).

  • On wild card in all of this is the stupefying behavior of the Administration and Congress. Proposing to increase in nominal federal expenditure by a third over a triennium when nominal domestic product might increase by 5% even though there was an extant deficit and the political class had conspired to socialize much of the country’s outstanding mortgage debt beggars belief, but it has happened. Compounding this by adding another massive entitlement program when the extant programs remain actuarially unsound defies one’s capacity for description. One can only imagine that Dr. Bernanke and various others have remained in place only because they fear what might come after them. These goons are poised to do far more damage than Clinton, Gephardt, and Daschle ever dreamed of.

  • “Republicans managed to win 55 House seats and a majority in 1946, but they didn’t do much with that majority, and two years later they lost 74 seats (and, of course, the Democratic President was re-elected).”

    Truman ran successfully against the Do-Nothing-Congress, not the biggest lie he ever told but it came close. The Republican Congress actually accomplished quite a bit. Here is a link on the 80th Congress:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/80th_United_States_Congress

    Unfortunately Dewey was the most uninspiring Republican candidate for President until John McCain took that title.

    In regard to what the Republicans should do, just a few ideas off the top of my head:

    1. Press for repeal of ObamaCare.

    2. Pass a balanced budget and force Obama to veto it several times.

    3. Begin investigations of the rampant corruption that no doubt has occurred between those who administer government bailouts and individuals in private enterprises which received bailout money.

    4. Push to make the Bush tax cuts permanent.

    5. Initiate legislation to defund the Leftist beneficiaries of government funds, and Planned Parenthood should be at the top of that list.

    6. Pass a package of tax incentives for those starting new businesses.

    7. Introduce legislation to reform the federal pension system.

    8. Pass legislation abolishing Congressional pensions and medical treatment for life for retired members of Congress.

    9. Pass legislation reducing the pay of members of Congress.

    10. Press for a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.

  • Donald,

    One of the problems I see with your list (or the major elements on it, at least) is that you can’t force the President to veto a bill unless you pass it first. While there is a slim chance that the Republicans could retake both the House and Senate in 2010, I don’t believe it’s possible even in principle for them to get a filibuster proof majority in the Senate.

    Not only that, but I doubt you’d be able to hold a lot of Republicans for some of the things you’re proposing. It’s great to rail against ObamaCare in the abstract. Actually repealing it, however, means repealing the popular parts (e.g. bans on pre-existing conditions) as well as the unpopular parts (e.g. the mandate, Medicare cuts). Likewise, submitting a balanced budget is not going to be possible without some combination of 1) substantial tax increases, or 2) substantial spending cuts. I know Republicans aren’t going to propose increasing taxes. Are they going to pass a bill with with massive cuts to entitlements and the military? Somehow I doubt it.

  • “While there is a slim chance that the Republicans could retake both the House and Senate in 2010, I don’t believe it’s possible even in principle for them to get a filibuster proof majority in the Senate.”

    Let the Democrats filibuster popular legislation. For political purposes that is as good for the GOP as a Presidential veto. However, considering how many vulnerable Dems are up in 2012, and how shell-shocked I think the Dems will be after the November massacre, I doubt if they will be able to hold a filibuster against legislation that is popular enough.

    “Not only that, but I doubt you’d be able to hold a lot of Republicans for some of the things you’re proposing. It’s great to rail against ObamaCare in the abstract. Actually repealing it, however, means repealing the popular parts (e.g. bans on pre-existing conditions) as well as the unpopular parts (e.g. the mandate, Medicare cuts).”

    Repeal and replace I believe is the strategy that will be followed.

    “Likewise, submitting a balanced budget is not going to be possible without some combination of 1) substantial tax increases, or 2) substantial spending cuts.”

    Substantial spending cuts will be the order of the day. In normal political times I agree the Republicans would probably lack the stomach for such cuts. These are far from normal political times. Additionally the path we are on now is simply unsustainable, and I believe that a majority of Americans are realizing that. Government debt and spending simply has to be dealt with now. This I think is the issue that is becoming the new political reality as the Democrats are about to find out in November.

  • Both parties are pretty entrenched, it would seem. And since 60 has become the new 51, there’s a broad swath of paralysis for corporations to enjoy.

    The GOP (and the Dems, too, of course) should thank their lucky stars for the two-party system. If there was a populist alternative to spending the country into oblivion while bleeding in Asia, one of the existing parties might well come in third in 2010. Or 2012 for that matter.

    I’d say it’s a pretty safe arena for politicians in the major parties. Nobody has any incentive for rteal reform–like protecting the unborn for example. Lip service and chip away at the fringes. Big business remains largely above the law. The citizenry can get distracted by the Scandal of the Week or how Kate and Buzz are dancing with the stars.

    As for spending, I’d say the American public still has more blame to pin on the GOP: two wars, plus half the bailout. If the Dems can’t sell that in November, I’d be rooting for them to take third place. They would deserve it.

  • “If the Dems can’t sell that in November, I’d be rooting for them to take third place. They would deserve it.”

    Dust off your rooting hat Todd. The Democrats have demonstrated in the past two years that when it comes to absolutely insane government spending they are in a league all their own.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/02/01/obamas-trillion-budget-deficit_n_444031.html

  • Donald,

    We are currently spending $3 trillion while taking in $2 trillion. I agree that this is a serious issue, but the idea that in current circumstances you could get a balanced budget in 2011 (particularly without raising taxes) is just not serious. For perspective, Paul Ryan’s plan has been described by friend and foe alike as being extremely tough minded about entitlement cuts. Most Republicans aren’t willing to sign on to his plan. The Ryan plan does balance the budget . . . in 2063.

    Here are my predictions:

    1) ObamaCare won’t be repealed (indeed, I suspect you’ll soon see Republicans start to redefine what they mean by ObamaCare so as to minimize their opposition).

    2) Any significant spending cuts will be accompanied by significant tax increases.

  • Donald, I do not think your sums add up.

    Blackadder,

    The filibuster is a practice in parliamentary rules which can be discontinued. It can also be amended to require filibusterers to stand on their feet for 26 hour stretches, which is how it had to be done prior to 1975 or thereabouts.

    We are currently careering toward failed bond sales and quite possibly sovereign default. Congress doesn’t have until 2063.

  • We will see BA. My predictions are that Obama will veto legislation that basically repeals ObamaCare and that he will also veto a Republican budget with steep decreases in spending and no tax increases. I see zero sentiment among Republicans in Congress for any tax increases.

  • In regard to balancing the budget, a good start could be made by zeroing out the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Labor, the Department of Education, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Energy. These of course seem like radical proposals today. When we can no longer make money out of thin air, and that day is rapidly approaching, they will not seem so radical.

  • Of course if we simply wanted to slash the deficit by about two-thirds we could return to the budget numbers of the Bush administration for fiscal year 2005.

  • The Department of Homeland Security comprehends most of the federal police. Frills?

    I think if you add up the share of the federal budget devoted to the military, veterans’ benefits, Social Security, Medicare, interest on the public debt, and civil service and military pensions, you corral about 70% of the total. We can look it up though. The current circumstances abroad rather limit opportunities for economy in the military or veterans’ budgets. The elderly have limited opportunities to adjust to imposed alterations in their real income, so amendments there are properly gradual and implemented on a cohort-by-cohort basis. You cannot welsh on your interest payments, or country go blooey. I think interim tax increases will likely be the order of the day, and properly so.

    One thing I would like to see the Republicans pass is the placement of the retirement age on an appropriately rapid escalator. The Democratic Party would be atrociously demagogic about it. That would be the time for the public relations mavens they use (F. Luntz, et al) to start earning their retainers.

  • “I think interim tax increases will likely be the order of the day, and properly so.”

    Give them more taxes Art and I guarantee you they will more than wipe out the tax increases by increases in spending. I also do not see it happening politically. The GOP will regain political power mostly through people fed up with government spending. Giving the Feds even more money would be political seppuku for the GOP.

    Increasing the retirement age for social security makes complete sense, and therefore I have my doubts as to whether such a measure could pass Congress. If it did I have no doubt that Obama would veto it.

  • I think that when we see real budgetary reform (serious spending cuts that stick) it will be only in coordination with some tax increases — perhaps in the form of a shift to a new approach to taxation (maybe not as complete as the fair tax or flat tax, but something.) My theory is basically that we’ll never see spending restraint until we return to a point where the majority of the population actually pays income taxes. Right now, the majority don’t, they only pay into the programs that (falsely) are seen as membership or account based (Medicare, Social Security). If 70%+ of the population actually paid income taxes, then we’d get serious about spending restraint, so I’d be in favor of a tax reform/increase which resulted in most people paying some amount of income tax — though in the case of many who currently pay none it might only be a few hundred dollars. (Just figured I’d cram all my heresies into one day.)

  • “(Just figured I’d cram all my heresies into one day.)”

    🙂

    In regard to the current income tax system it is now effectively a welfare program for a substantial portion of the population. I was stunned in examining the tax returns of a married couple who are my clients to see on an income of $27,000.00 they received a “refund” from the Federal government of $11,000.00.

  • In regard to balancing the budget, a good start could be made by zeroing out the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Labor, the Department of Education, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Energy.

    Well the Department of Health and Human Services budget includes Medicare, Medicaid, and S-CHIP. I’m not sure if you meant to suggest that Republicans should or will just eliminate those programs. If so, then in the immortal words of Bagdad Bob, I regret to inform you that you are now too far from reality.

    As for the other Departments, I would be happy to see them eliminated. However, (1) you and I both know that’s not going to happen, and (2) the budgets of all of those Departments combined is less than 8% of the total budget.

    Of course if we simply wanted to slash the deficit by about two-thirds we could return to the budget numbers of the Bush administration for fiscal year 2005.

    Technically true but misleading. There are, for example, more retirees on Social Security and Medicare today than there were in 2005, and because of increases in health care inflation. So returning to 2005 budget levels today would mean cutting benefits below the level they were at in 2005.

  • “So returning to 2005 budget levels today would mean cutting benefits below the level they were at in 2005.”

    Yes it would. People who benefit from government largesse will, sooner or later, be getting less from the overnment.

    “I’m not sure if you meant to suggest that Republicans should or will just eliminate those programs.”

    S-Chip most certainly. In regard to Medicare and Medicaid I think we could reduce expenditures by 25%.

    “However, (1) you and I both know that’s not going to happen, and (2) the budgets of all of those Departments combined is less than 8% of the total budget.”

    Actually BA I think slashing government spending to the bone is precisely what we will see in the years to come. “The dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate to the stormy present.” I think that quote from Lincoln is apt to the times in which we live. The European model of an ever-expanding welfare state and economic stagnation is in the process of being decisively rejected here. The Obama presidency is one of great consequence but not for what he proposes but for the reaction that he is producing.

  • My theory is basically that we’ll never see spending restraint

    If I am not mistaken, the ratio of federal expenditure to domestic product has tended, like your weight, to fluctuate around 0.21 for the last fifty-odd years. The country began running chronic deficits during the Kennedy Administration, because Congress just did not feel like doing it any differently.

    The composition of that spending has changed considerably, of course. During the years running from 1947 to 1961, military expenditure accounted for about 45% of the federal budget. I think at this time it is about 18% or thereabouts, and so forth.

    Blackadder is right. The low-hanging fruit do not constitute enough to close the deficit. Alas, the low hanging fruit are also often the pet projects of various and sundry ghouls in Congress. Remember Jimmy Carter’s effort to shut down several dozen crappy water projects. They never forgave him that.

  • Actually BA I think slashing government spending to the bone is precisely what we will see in the years to come.

    I expect we’ll see some serious spending cuts at some point. I just think they will be accompanied by some serious tax increases (I also expect a fair amount of the spending cuts will come from the military). What I doubt is that we’ll see the elimination of the cabinet posts you mentioned. A lower budget for those departments maybe. But lots of countries have gone through spending induced crises, and I’m not aware of any that have responded in the way you suggest.

  • If I am not mistaken, the ratio of federal expenditure to domestic product has tended, like your weight, to fluctuate around 0.21 for the last fifty-odd years.

    I’m trying to think of what my weight would have been 21% fifty years ago… But yes.

    FWIW, I would argue that “spending restraint” is semi-relative. In some ways, although spending is the same percentage of GDP, it seems that we’re fairly cushy at the moment even compared to 15 years ago. More to the point, if we are to significantly reduce spending from current levels, I suspect it would require some amount of taxation to go with it in order to make people aware of the costs of spending.

  • My theory is basically that we’ll never see spending restraint until we return to a point where the majority of the population actually pays income taxes.

    The irony, though, is that it is precisely the programs that are funded by everyone (i.e. Social Security and Medicare) where we have the biggest spending problem. And indeed, anecdotally it seems like the fact that everyone pays in is part of the reason it’s so hard to control spending, since people are less willing to give up a benefit that they have “paid for” than they are one that is explicitly funded by taxes on someone else.

    Personally I think making everyone pay income tax on net would be a bad idea. My guess is that if everyone was paying something there would be more pressure to raise the top rate, and it would be harder to cut taxes, since pretty much every tax cut over the last few decades has included tax rebates for the poor as a means of gaining political support. Further, I think that the idea of a negative income tax (like the EITC) makes a lot of sense. But such a program by definition would involve some people being net receivers of taxes, rather than everybody paying in more than they get out (assuming that is even theoretically possible).

  • “But lots of countries have gone through spending induced crises, and I’m not aware of any that have responded in the way you suggest.”

    The preferred modes seem to be debt repudiation, Argentina for example, and currency devaluation combined with hyperinflation. That and of course increased taxation. I think we will, long term, be wiser than that.

    The policies I wish to see enacted were of course precisely what was done by the Pinochet regime in Chile with spectacular success after the Allende administration had done its level best to wreck the Chilean economy. It is melancholoy to observe that the most successful economic policy in the post war world was implemented by an oppressive dictatorship, but such is the case.

  • And indeed, anecdotally it seems like the fact that everyone pays in is part of the reason it’s so hard to control spending, since people are less willing to give up a benefit that they have “paid for” than they are one that is explicitly funded by taxes on someone else.

    I would tend to think it’s the fact that everyone benefits from social security and medicare that makes them so popular — not the fact that everyone pays for them. I suppose the test would be: would there be support for removing payroll taxes for those in the bottom 50% of the income distribution so long as everyone continued getting benefits. My guess would be, “Yes”, though it would be interesting if there’s some data pointing the other way.

    Personally I think making everyone pay income tax on net would be a bad idea. My guess is that if everyone was paying something there would be more pressure to raise the top rate, and it would be harder to cut taxes, since pretty much every tax cut over the last few decades has included tax rebates for the poor as a means of gaining political support. Further, I think that the idea of a negative income tax (like the EITC) makes a lot of sense. But such a program by definition would involve some people being net receivers of taxes, rather than everybody paying in more than they get out (assuming that is even theoretically possible).

    I’m of several minds on this, but let me try floating a couple ideas:

    – I don’t have any problem with some of the population getting more back than they put in — I just think it’s too many right now with less than 50% of the population paying any net income taxes. I’d rather see the number paying net income taxes of some amount be 60-70%, unless the budget is humming along so well we just don’t need the revenues.

    – This is waaaaaay too gimicky, but I suppose what I think would be the best incentive is if there was an “overage tax” which was calculated each year if some very simple set of fiscal rules was not followed (federal budget deficit existed, or grew too fast, or federal spending increased more rapidly than GDP or something) and bills for this tax were sent out on January 15 of every year, due April 15th. The tax could be 1% of your total taxable income (if you want to be progressive, make add 2-3 brackets up from there), and the trick would be that it had to be paid to the government, it couldn’t come out of witholding. If you defaulted, then it would be either held out of your next tax refund, or they’d put a tax lein or your wages or what have you. Basically, give people a very simple financial incentive for getting mad if we weren’t being fiscally responsible.

    Now, as outlined, that wouldn’t work and would be way too easily gamed. (Though the idea of a tax that kicks in under only certain circumstances would be interesting.) But to get back to the real life point: My concern would be that so long as we can fund whatever we want to do by only taxing “the rich” (as in: someone else) there’s little incentive to moderate. If it seems clear that most of us pay more if we spend too much, there will be more pressure on the parties to cut back.

    (Or we set up a VAT and the swine all gather to the trough…)

  • If I am not mistaken, Canada was able to reduce the ratio of public expenditure to domestic product by about a quarter (from ~55% to ~40%) over a period of about 15 years, so this sort of thing is possible (absent debt repudiation & currency crises) in occidental countries with defective party systems and unsettling demographic metrics.

  • The policies I wish to see enacted were of course precisely what was done by the Pinochet regime in Chile with spectacular success after the Allende administration had done its level best to wreck the Chilean economy.

    If you look here, you will find the current Chilean Cabinet. Notice that they still have a Departments of Agriculture, Health, Education, Energy, Labor, and Housing (I don’t think they ever had an equivalent of Homeland Security, and if they had I’m pretty sure Pinochet wouldn’t have been the one to get rid of it). From what I’ve read, Pinochet was able to reduce the budgets of housing, health, and education by about 20%. So even in what you claim is the best example of spending reform since WWII, Chile did not do what you are suggesting the U.S. should or will do.

  • I would tend to think it’s the fact that everyone benefits from social security and medicare that makes them so popular — not the fact that everyone pays for them.

    Everyone benefits from spending on roads too, but I don’t see the same reluctance to cut road funding. In any event, if it’s true that what matters is that everybody benefits not that everybody pays, then making everybody pay won’t solve the problem.

    I suppose the test would be: would there be support for removing payroll taxes for those in the bottom 50% of the income distribution so long as everyone continued getting benefits.

    Supported by whom? If I’ve been paying for something and you offer to start supplying it for free, I’m hardly going to say no on the grounds that if I’m not paying for it I might not care as much if you stop giving it to me for free. Most people don’t think that way.

    There’s been a fair amount of research in recent years about how people respond to income transfers. One of the findings seems to be that it matters a lot to people whether they think the money has been earned or not. If people think they have earned a certain benefit they are less willing to give it up than if they think it’s just been given to them, and likewise are less willing to take from others if they believe that the other person has earned what they have vs having it handed to them. I think you see the same phenomenon with Social Security.

    My concern would be that so long as we can fund whatever we want to do by only taxing “the rich” (as in: someone else) there’s little incentive to moderate.

    I understand the concern, I just think the evidence doesn’t bear it out. In practice the desire to tax the rich goes up the more the non-rich pay in taxes.

  • Everyone benefits from spending on roads too, but I don’t see the same reluctance to cut road funding. In any event, if it’s true that what matters is that everybody benefits not that everybody pays, then making everybody pay won’t solve the problem.

    It’s true that everyone benefits from spending on roads, but people are willing to balance that benefit against the cost just like they are willing to do cost benefit analysis on their personal spending.

    FWIW, I think we probably agree that the thing which makes Social Security and Medicare so hard to cut is at root neither that “everyone benefits” nor that “everyone pays” but rather that people actually believe the fiction that these are retirement plans which they pay into and then get their own investment back. The idea of cutting them seems like cutting your house after paying it off. (Which is what makes the design of those programs so devious, given that they are not, in reality, accounts that people pay into, but rather have served effectively as a source for other government money which now needs to be paid back.)

    So reforming Social Security and Medicare is going to be very hard no matter what. However, in regards to all other government spending, some people benefit more than others. (For instance, most people won’t benefit much at all from the health care reform bill. And most people don’t directly benefit from bailing out GM. Etc.) In this regard, it seems to me that if there were a broader impact to new or increased spending in terms of taxes, people would be less supportive of spending increases.

    Maybe I’m wrong on this, but it at least seems intuitive enough that I’d want to read a couple articles on the topic to be convinced of the contrary.

    Supported by whom? If I’ve been paying for something and you offer to start supplying it for free, I’m hardly going to say no on the grounds that if I’m not paying for it I might not care as much if you stop giving it to me for free. Most people don’t think that way.

    Maybe I’m missing something, but it seemed to me like the obvious test of the claim “people support Social Security because everyone pays for it while they support other spending less because only the ‘rich’ pay income taxes” would be to see whether people would continue to support Social Security if it were paid for only by the rich.

    Given your point, which I agree with, about people feeling more strongly about things they feel they’ve “earned”, it seems like the answer would be: In the short term, people have no particular attachment to paying for things. If you could fund social security off the top 40%, people would support that. However, in the long term, people might come to see Social Security as an expendable hand out. (The question would be whether this effect would actually kick in since it’s effectively a guaranteed income. Most people are attached to their income whether they think they earned it or not.)

    There’s been a fair amount of research in recent years about how people respond to income transfers. One of the findings seems to be that it matters a lot to people whether they think the money has been earned or not.

    Fully agreed here.

    I understand the concern, I just think the evidence doesn’t bear it out. In practice the desire to tax the rich goes up the more the non-rich pay in taxes.

    I’m trying to understand how broadly you mean this. Certainly, when people are hurting from taxes, they may get urgent about, “Are other people not paying their share?” So if the middle class are paying taxes, they may demand that the rich pay more.

    On the other hand, it seems fairly obvious that if you tell someone, “Program A is going to be expensive, but we can fully fund it by taxing the pople in the top 20% of income,” versus “Program B is going to be expensive, and you’ll see your taxes go up $1200 per year to pay for it, but don’t worry, Bill Gates will be paying $50M per year,” the former will get more support than the latter.

    Maybe I’m wrong, but I’d at least want to read some of the evidence on why. Any good links on some public choice theory work on this?

  • Maybe I’m missing something, but it seemed to me like the obvious test of the claim “people support Social Security because everyone pays for it while they support other spending less because only the ‘rich’ pay income taxes” would be to see whether people would continue to support Social Security if it were paid for only by the rich.

    I misunderstood what you were saying. Sorry.

    I’m trying to understand how broadly you mean this.

    I think there are a couple of different mechanisms at work here. The first is that historically if you want to pass a major tax cut then you usually need to make it be a tax cut for virtually everybody (obviously the amount of the tax cut can be more for some than for others). Effectively that means that if you want to reduce the top rate below a certain point you are going to have to reduce the rates for lots of people to zero or below.

    In terms of tax increases, at least in the U.S. you usually don’t see major tax increases absent a war or some other major crisis. For example, the original income tax was established during the Civil War, then abolished afterwards. When the income tax was established again in 1913 the top rate was 7% until the U.S. got into WWI, when it went up to 70+%. It came down after the war, then went back up with the Depression and WWII, came down a bit, went back up for the Korean war, came down again under Kennedy, edged up a bit during Vietnam, and then began its recent decline. The only counter-example is the 1993, which took us about back to where we were in 1987.

  • Blackadder,

    That does not tell us precisely what those departments do. They might be engaged in regulatory functions, service provision, redistribution, or statistical surveys, or some combination of these. The first and the last of these functions eat up comparatively little cash, btw.

    All else being equal, they are likely to have somewhat different fuctions in Chile than in the United States because Chile has a population similar to that of Illinois and is not formally constituted as a federal republic.

    Now, I haven’t a clue as to what Chile’s Energy ministry does. The federal cabinet department of that name in this country is engaged in pork barrel for scientists and engineers. Ask John Simmins (who occasionally appears in these fora) what he thinks of the national laboratories where he used to work. The U.S. Dept. of Energy acquired a reputation for mismanagement within about two years of its formation and Mr. Clinton’s Secretary of Energy (Hazel O’Leary) said only someone ‘certifiable’ would ever want that job for more than about four years.

    (Also, Agriculture is abnormally prominent in Chile’s export mix and the country produces proportionately less for its domestic market than does the United States. In the U.S., agriculture and forestry amount to about 2% of domestic product.)

  • ObamaCare won’t be repealed (indeed, I suspect you’ll soon see Republicans start to redefine what they mean by ObamaCare so as to minimize their opposition).

    I must be psychic or something.

  • “ObamaCare won’t be repealed (indeed, I suspect you’ll soon see Republicans start to redefine what they mean by ObamaCare so as to minimize their opposition).”

    Mark Kirk? The pro-abort Mark Kirk, future senator from Illinois due to the inability of the Democrats not to nominate a mobbed up candidate for the Senate seat of Obama, is the closest thing to voting for a Democrat without actually voting for a Democrat. He voted for Cap and Trade last year and is against it this year. By the Fall I have no doubt this insult to weather-vanes everywhere will have changed his mind twice on the subject of ObamaCare.

    As to Senator Cornyn, I have no doubt that he will vote to repeal ObamaCare when the time comes.

    http://cornyn.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?p=NewsReleases&ContentRecord_id=bb9f3eb8-20b7-458d-a083-be2b826ca4d8&ContentType_id=b94acc28-404a-4fc6-b143-a9e15bf92da4&Group_id=24eb5606-e2db-4d7f-bf6c-efc5df80b676

    As to Senator Corker, considering his backtracking in the Weekly Standard, I have no doubt he will vote whichever way his political base is demanding, and I have no doubt that will be against ObamaCare.

    http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/sen-corker-clarifies-repeal-isnt-going-happen-after-election-cycle

  • ObamaCare is so unpopular that Democrat Congress Critters are reduced to lying about its provisions.

    http://www.cato-at-liberty.org/2010/04/08/mandate-denial/

    Color me non-shocked.